Russia is set to broaden its digital ruble pilot by starting real-world tests with 13 banks next week, the country's central bank announced Wednesday.
President Vladimir Putin signed the digital ruble law in July, while the central bank's pilot for the CBDC has been a while in the making. Russia – heavily sanctioned by the U.S. and Europe following the invasion of Ukraine – views the digital ruble as a way of circumventing the financial restrictions.
“The launch of pilot operations with real digital rubles is the most important stage of the project," the Bank of Russia said in Wednesday's announcement. "This will allow us to test the operation of the digital ruble platform already in an industrial environment, work out all the necessary procedures with the involvement of clients, adjust processes, if necessary, and make sure that the client path is convenient and understandable for users."
Citizens and businesses should be able to use the central bank digital currency "at their own request" starting 2025, said Olga Skorobogatova, first deputy governor of the Bank of Russia in a statement.
The tests will be conducted through 13 banks and a limited circle of their clients, according to the announcement. First stages of testing will focus on digital wallets, transfers between citizens, purchases of goods and services using QR codes and simple automated payments.
"Pilot participants will be able to pay with digital rubles at 30 retail outlets located in 11 Russian cities," according to the announcement. By the end of this year, the list of pilot participants will be expanded by attracting both citizens and companies.
UPDATE (Aug. 9 12:32 UTC): Adds details of test, expansion plan in last two paragraphs.
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